- "U.S. consumer confidence flat in September!"
- "U.S. home prices rise, but market still depressed!"
- "Bernanke's Twist turns the screws on already battered U.S. pension funds!"
- "Global confidence collapses, crushing stocks, loonie, gold!"
- "Governments powerless to prevent another recession!"
If you read the headlines or watch TV it isn't very hard to end up depressed by the economic news coming from global markets. How many ways can you say "bad?"
Because the news is an entertainment business, drama and comedy sell. The more drama and comedy the media can whip up around the economy, the more audience it generates.
Case in point: this fall, the best reality show on the tube may be "the all-encompassing response" from the European Union on the pending financial crisis. Will the Greeks blow their allowance again? What will the "adult countries" do this time?
Getting swept up in turmoil is how recessions take hold of countries, companies and individuals. Psychology has as much to do with recession as do market fundamentals.
You don't have to be an economist to predict that fear about the future, fuelled by poor economic governance, is a toxic mix for the markets. When people are afraid, they stop spending. When they stop spending, business stops expanding. Unemployment rises and housing prices decline.
That's why it's important in these conditions that Transformational Leaders fight back. That battlefront is the good fight for resiliency.
The Victory of Buoyancy and Confidence
The definition of strength has changed in recent years in the world of physics and I think it has real relevancy for leaders, organizations and economies. Strength is no longer measured as force exerted; it is now measured as resiliency.
Resiliency is the ability to face adversity with buoyancy and confidence. It funds the ability to meet a disturbance without disturbance. During difficult times, the practices of resiliency can provide the support necessary to carry us through uncertainty and accelerated change.
The Resiliency Model
Here are six things that you can do to create more resiliencies in yourself, your people, even the economy:
1. Uphold Sufficiency
We begin by planting our feet, by taking a stand. That stand begins with sufficiency.
Sufficiency is the sum total of the gifts, talents, skills, character qualities, knowledge, experience, creativity and other resources that every individual, company or nation has at its command. When you do the math that's a formidable base from which to meet any and all challenges.
Fear is an agent that undermines our belief that we have the capacity, courage and creativity to solve our problems. When fear strikes we must turn to our sufficiency rather than listen to the merchants of doom. It is stable ground from which we can generate the action required to meet and overcome challenges.
Transformational Leaders liberate the sufficiency of their people and organizations, especially in the face of challenges and change. They know that sticking together, working together, is the difference between success and failure.
They also recognize that the circumstances, no matter how dire, can be navigated through individual and collective resourcefulness. They share a simple, powerful message: "we are well matched to the circumstances."
6. Build Trust
The erosion of trust is the consequence of allowing fear, uncertainty and in the case of the economy, poor governance practices, to dictate our actions. Fear causes people — and markets — to constrict. That constriction leads to recession, and if it goes unchecked, depression.
Trust is the antidote to fear. It is the firm belief in reliability: that we are personally reliable and that we can rely on each other. It springs from a base of values and principles that is translated into behaviors. That's called integrity.
The first place trust must be upheld is the self. When we trust that we can find a way forward past uncertainty and difficulty we fund confidence. From this base of trust in ourselves we can extend trust outward to others.
Trust is built by doing what you say you will do. Transformational Leaders put congruity into practice by keeping their promises. This behavior builds personal credibility and a framework from which mutuality can grow.
For trust to hold, others must also hold to a code of behaviour based in values and principles. Obviously, this is what German Chancellor Angela Merkel is explaining to Greek Prime Minister Georgios Papandreou below.
2. Be Accountable
Accountability is a character quality. It is the gumption required totake responsibility and lead rather than waiting until the smoke clearsto see what the safe play might be.
Being accountable is the measure of leaders at the hard places of the journey-¬the tough decisions, the unpopular but prudent measures taken, the willingness to stand alone to adhere to principles and values.
Imagine where the markets might be if integrity had won over greed in 2008?
Nothing undermines confidence and resiliency like lack of accountability. One only has to think back to the sub-prime mortgage crisis and the resulting brouhaha on Wall Street. Liquidity shortfalls in the U.S. banking system, high risk and complicated mortgage products, conflicts of interest, and the failure of regulatory practices produced the Great Recession.
Today, even the International Monetary Fund has recognized that there has been "a lack of fundamental changes in banking and financial markets," a failure that is contributing to the current crisis in Europe that threatens to spread to global markets.
Ethics and courage fund good governance, as do consequences for transgressions. We need that combination today is we are to stave off another global economic crisis.
3. Be Proactive
Resiliency occurs when leaders are proactive, not reactive, during a crisis or in volatile conditions. "Action absorbs anxiety," goes the old saying. We would do well to remember that simple formula during difficult times. Action, though, must be guided by wisdom.
Proactivity is that wise action. It is the art of moving both tasks andrelationships forward together. This approach to governance takes into account that actions taken without regard for the impact on people always produces a counter effect.
Transformational Leaders know an important secret of action science: the resiliency of relationships is the single most important factor to sustain forward movement. Relationships hold families, organizations, communities and countries together when challenge, change, conflict and chaos make their periodic appearances.
When relationships are resilient, they can withstand the tensions of such changes. When they are weak, the bonds of relationship buckle or snap under the weight of stress.
Leaders who have built solid relationships are able to move much more quickly when volatile change appears on the horizon. Those that have been divisive do not have the fluidity necessary to maintain resiliency. The U.S. Congress might want to reconsider its dysfunctional and divisive dynamics. The fate of the American economy is at stake.
4. Take Heart
Traditional people around the world have long espoused the value of heart as a visionary organ. It is also an important contributor to the resiliency of a person, group or institution.
Cultural anthropologist Angeles Arrien has written about the Four-Chambered Heart — full, open, clear and strong. "The heart sees better than the eye," goes an old proverb and in times of turbulence and uncertainty, vision is at a premium.
- The Full Heart funds commitment and engagement. It supports resiliency because it allows us to stay the course despite the difficulties and engage with each other to generate solutions to problems and breakdowns.
- The Open Heart funds the ability to look at new possibilities, new ways of doing things, and new solutions to what may appear to be intractable obstacles.
- The Clear Heart funds the capacity to see what matters most and move past our doubts and confusion to take action on priorities.
- The Strong Heart funds the ability to be courageous, hold our ground and speak truth to power. These are important qualities for making change, especially when there is a vested interest in the status quo.
Fear invades the mind and attacks the heart. It causes half, closed, doubting and weak-hearted measures to problem solving. These are insufficient responses that undermine the resiliency of people, processes and institutions. Let it not be said that we lacked the heart to do what is right at a time of crisis and need.
6. Balance Your Outlook
Finally, to maintain resiliency we must have a balanced perspective. Too often we see only what is not working, the faults or deficiencies. We become overly critical or pessimistic. That is a sure way of bringing people, systems and processes crashing down around us.
While it's important to recognize defects, we must also keep an eye on what's positive, constructive, and working well. Even amidst doom and gloom, there is always something that is positive, something that can be built on, something constructive happening somewhere.
Seeing the glass half full funds the optimism necessary to stay the course and make the hard choices that support sustainability and renewal. New possibilities are made real through a combination of optimism, imagination and bold action. The door to new possibilities is never opened by resignation and cynicism. As a matter a fact, these two affects are what closes the door and reduces resiliency.
Of course, you can't be Pollyanna. Credibility is destroyed when we turn a blind eye to mounting problems. A balanced outlook that recognizes the difficulties but offers solutions is what everyone wants and needs in a crisis.